Columbus Makes Art Presents Sarah Hixon Developing “A Harrowing World”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hixon Dance has delayed its new show A Harrowing World, but you can still get to know Sarah Hixon, the company’s artistic director. Chris Leyva, an area playwright and director, recently sat down with Sarah to talk about the piece and how it came about.
Chris: Tell me about the new show Hixon Dance is currently creating.
Sarah: It’s called A Harrowing World. I took six poems by Columbus poet Maggie Smith that I felt were related and that would create an interesting story arc. The dancers and I worked together in the studio to create movement to the poetry. The dance explores both maternal and sororal relationships and how the traits we inherit – and pass on – change our perspective of the world.
Chris: How is this show different from other pieces you’ve created in the past?
Sarah: Last year our show was based on science concepts. This show is definitely more emotional, more personal, more intimate. We’ve commissioned three new pieces of music for this show which will set three of the poems as songs. The way the dancers and I have developed the movement alongside the poetry has been a careful balance. Creating beautiful and sometimes abstract movement in a way that makes the work very accessible for an audience. I think people will see the way that personal relationships, even though they can be complicated and messy, can also be a place of haven and of comfort, especially when times are trying in your life.
Chris: Is your personal experience as a mother and a sister influencing your work on this piece?
Sarah: Yes, very much so. I think that’s why I selected the poems that I did. I’m actually the youngest of three sisters, one of whom did pass away when she was eight. So, I definitely clung on to the first poem “See No Evil” because of that. And I have a young child, so I’m always learning and growing as a parent – sometimes struggling. But I also have an aging mother that I’m struggling with as her grown child. I’m navigating the power shift that happens as she needs more help. She still doesn’t like taking my advice or guidance. Those definitely are a part of this piece.
Chris: Tell me more about the music for this show.
Sarah: All the music will be performed live by members of The Ohio Song Project, which is directed by Scott Ewing. It will include Sean Ferguson on theorbo, Scott Ewing on piano, Emily Noel, soprano, and Jenna Hunnicutt, mezzo-soprano. The first piece is by John Cage and is very trance-like and hypnotic. That will be paired with a new piece written by local composer Lauren Spavelko. She is going to set a poem by Smith called “Heart,” which has playful imagery but is also a bit melancholy. The second section will include a piece from the 17th century by Bertolotti for theorbo, an instrument related to the lute. And then our music director and local composer Jacob Reed has set a poem called “Harrowing,” from which we obviously get our title, for a mezzo-soprano and theorbo. He will also set “Rain, New Year’s Eve” for soprano and piano.
Chris: Why do you think Columbus as a city lends itself to the type of show that you’re creating?
Sarah: The arts community is pretty connected. We have a lot of outlets for being able to see and hear and experience the work of other artists. It makes collaboration easy and exciting. I enjoy the collaborative aspect of making these kinds of productions with so many people—it adds so much richness to the work. I love having the artistic input and voices of dancers, musicians, composers, dramaturgs, and others. The Columbus community of artists makes it easy to find great collaborators, and patrons of the arts are open to so many of these new experiences.
To learn more about Hixon Dance and their upcoming productions, visit hixondance.com.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Arts Council is maintaining a list of virtual arts experiences at ColumbusMakesArt.com/Virtual. The public is also invited to contribute to the Arts Council’s fund: Emergency Relief for Artists fund.